Local government workers have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ignore the petition of state governors on the guidelines issued by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), over the handling of funds from the Federation Account meant for local government councils in the country.
The workers, under the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), in a letter to the Presidency, said the governors were behaving like wounded lions, because they see the source of funds that they have habitually misused and abused drying up.
The union’s president, Comrade Khaleel Ibrahim, commended President Buhari and his administration for the courage to come up with the NFIU guidelines.
He said, “Before now, as Your Excellency is aware, local government funds sent to the joint state-local government account have been subjected to the most unimaginable abuse by state governors across the federation. The governors almost without exception have since 2003 turned this account into a source of ‘slush fund,’ from which they routinely withdraw funds without any form of accountability or restraint.
“Therefore, the guidelines from the NFIU is a bold step in the right direction to end the unconscionable financial recklessness by governors feasting on funds meant for the 774 local government councils in the country.”
According to him, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, under its outgoing chairman, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, had in petition to the President expressed “anger and dismay” over the patriotic action of the NFIU, and accused the latter of attempting to dabble into a matter that it claimed was beyond its mandate.
He said, “As we understand it, the NFIU guideline makes it mandatory for all local council allocations to go straight into their respective bank accounts, after being paid into the joint account before funds could be drawn from them; and also that all expenses and expenditure above a maximum of half a million (N500,000) daily must be undertaken by e-transfers and cheques.
“Against the background of what we know about the operations of the state-local government joint account, the measures outlined in the NFIU’s guidelines will go a long way in checkmating the practices of governors who hide behind their immunity while in office to commit all manner of atrocities in the misuse of funds meant for grassroots developments across the federation.”
He said that, if the guidelines will have any detrimental effect on the operations of the Universal Basic Education programme, or the primary health care or the payment of primary school teachers as Yari said, the NFIU guidelines have provisions for any adverse effect to be streamlined with the affected agency or agencies.
Assuring President Buhari of the support of all the local government employees in all the 774 councils across the country, Khaleel said that governors have been the ones frustrating the local government autonomy bill.
He stated further that, “For us in the local government system, who have been victims of the financial maladministration and recklessness by state governors, nothing in the guidelines indicate that the federal authority is desirous of encroaching the duties and responsibilities of any of the two other tiers of government, states and local government, in the tripod that makes up the federation. We do not see how ensuring that funds meant for local government councils reaches the intended destination offend in any way the provisions of section 162 of the Constitution and its various subsections.
“Contrary to the assertion by the outgoing chairman of the governors’ forum that the NFIU guideline is ‘stoking mischief and also deliberately seeking to cause disaffection, chaos and ovrheat the polity,’ our considered opinion is that it is governors who have been ganging up to prevent the wishes of the people of Nigeria to guaranteed financial and administrative autonomy for the third tier of our federal system that have been in the habit of doing mischief and heating up the political space by their crude actions.”